You just went to see your doctor for a health problem – whether minor or serious – and were prescribed a treatment. You are now in great part responsible for the success of that treatment!
Treatment adherence is about more than just taking your medication. It also means taking the exact dose prescribed, no more or less, taking it the right way (e.g. on an empty stomach or with food), and taking it at the right time of day.
It also means taking your medication for as long as indicated, especially if you suffer from a chronic condition (i.e. an incurable disease such as asthma or diabetes). With this type of condition, the goal is not to cure the disease, but rather to control it. If you stop taking your medication once you feel better, it is only a matter of time before your symptoms return. Chronic diseases require chronic treatment.
Taking the full course of a prescribed medication is also important with antibiotics. If you stop the treatment too soon, you may not have killed all the bacteria that caused your infection. These bacteria could begin to multiply again, causing your infection to come back. In addition, since they were exposed to the antibiotic, the bacteria that survived the infection could develop a resistance to the antibiotic.
Proper treatment adherence also helps physicians make the right decisions when treatments are not fully effective. For example, if you didn’t take your medication exactly as indicated and don’t let your doctor know, your doctor may conclude that the treatment was ineffective and that a change of approach is required, when in fact the treatment would work if taken as prescribed.
Treatment adherence issues are sometimes caused by a poor understanding of the disease or treatment. Other times, they are related to aspects of the medication (difficult to swallow, complex dosage schedule, etc.). Don’t hesitate to discuss any such issues with your doctor or pharmacist. They can help you identify the problem and find a solution.